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Wednesday, March 28,2001

War on discrimination

Why more leisure time is not the answer

Philip Buble, 44, likes to have sex with his dog. It's a relationship Philip's father, Frank Buble, hates. So last fall Frank smashed Philip over the head with a crowbar. He was charged with attempted murder and pled guilty before a district court judge in Maine.

Philip thinks he did nothing to deserve a crowbar assault. He says he just leads an alternative sex life that the rest of us should accept. He calls himself a "zoophile," and belongs to a community of like-minded people who chat online about their deviant sex lives.

It's easy to understand why Frank took a crowbar to Philip, and some people may be tempted to commend him for it. But we don't tolerate needless violence in our culture. Instead, we overtly discriminate against people who turn to violence to solve problems, so Frank Buble is rightfully in jail at age 71.

Although Frank had no right to harm Philip, he did have the right to discriminate against him. He had every right to say "Son, you're a deviant, sorry, sick, pathetic loser. I never want to see your face again."

No one would dispute Frank's right to say this. If Frank were a landlord, few would argue against his right to not do business with tenants who have sex with animals. If Frank were a merchant, most would understand his desire to not take money from Philip and to ask Philip to leave the store.

That's because few people in society can sympathize with Philip. Instead, we find him disgusting. His sex life, no matter how important it is to him, is inappropriate. We sympathize with the dog.

Sex with animals

But that's because having sex with animals hasn't caught on around here... yet. The world wide community of zoophiles has not organized well enough to force its agenda onto the rest of us. But they're trying.

Philip, after his father pled guilty to attempted murder, said he was relieved at the guilty plea because a trial was risky. He said it remains unclear how a jury would react to his alternative lifestyle because "I am the first out-of-the-closet zoo' (short for zoophile) to be attacked because of my sexual orientation."

Anyone who thinks something so disgusting and bizarre as humans having sex with animals can't catch on should reconsider. Ignoring for a moment the extensive historical record of bestiality as a not-uncommon cultural practice, we live in a society that's increasingly intolerant of reasonable forms of discrimination. New laws and media campaigns tell us every day that it's not OK to discriminate.

The late poet Allen Ginsberg, one of Boulder's most cherished pop icons, was an out-of-the-closet member of NAMBLA-the North American Man-Boy Love Association. The organization's sole mission is to advocate the legalization and acceptance of grown men having sex with young boys. Their credo is "Sex before eight, or it's too late."

Once a shocking, fringe organization people joked about, NAMBLA has caught on. Ginsberg was considered such a great man that his NAMBLA apologetics moved other pedophilia advocates closer to the center of cultural acceptance.

Feminist author Camille Paglia goes so far as to say man-boy love advocacy was among Ginsberg's most endearing qualities. She writes: "As far as Ginsberg's pro-NAMBLA stand goes, this is one of the things I most admire him for. I have repeatedly protested the lynch-mob hysteria that dogs the issue of man-boy love."

Likewise, sex-change operations have gone mainstream. Boulder updated it's human rights ordinance last year so that it's no longer lawful for a landlord to discriminate against people who have changed their sex. It was already illegal to refuse to rent to anyone on the basis of race, color, creed or sex.

On the surface this law, including the latest revision, sounds great. Those who passed it should be re-elected. They stand for tolerance, and that's a value we can all agree on.

City of intolerance

But it's not that simple. The ordinance is, frankly, institutionalized intolerance. It's intolerant of anyone who wants to go through life without doing business with transsexuals. It's intolerant of anyone who wants to go through life without taking a dime from Christians or Jews. It's intolerant of anyone who can't stand the thought of a homosexual living in grandma's old bungalow.

And who cares about such intolerance? I don't, because people who would discriminate against Christians, Jews, or homosexuals suck. They're mean and I don't like them.

But what happens when we turn this upside down and examine circumstances of discrimination against people the community doesn't value? Say, for example, a gay landlord is confronted with a prospective tenant who holds membership in the Westborough Baptist Church in Kansas. Members of this church practice a religion of open, active hatred of homosexuals. It's all done in a bonafide church, in the name of God.

The authors of the Constitution forbade government from silencing or suppressing the religious beliefs of such vile people because our society rightfully treasures the free marketplace of ideas... even repulsive, repugnant ones.

They wanted a country in which people were free to hate, and others were free to discriminate against them in return. So in Boulder, a gay landlord should feel free to turn away any prospective tenant wearing a T-shirt that says "God Hates Fags-Westborough Baptist." Only problem is, he can't. Our city code forbids it.

And what about an animal rights advocate who finds himself showing rental property to an out-of-the-closet zoophile? There's certainly nothing illegal about advocating the legalization of adults having sex with animals. And likewise, in a truly free marketplace of ideas, the animal rights activist ought to be able to disassociate himself from the zoophile. In Boulder, unfortunately, the animal rights activist would have no option but to turn over the keys and accept the first and last month's rent.

We have good laws against keeping slaves. We have good laws against hitting people with crowbars. We should have no laws, however, that preclude us from choosing not to associate with people we don't like. And in point of fact, the First Amendment implicitly forbids such laws where it prohibits the infringement of the right of free association. How can one freely associate with others if one is compelled to do so?

I'll willingly spend time in prison before obeying a law that would force me to rent an apartment to Philip Buble. But it shouldn't come to that. I should have the legal right to simply turn him away because I don't like his cause.

Morality v. legality

Is it moral for the owner of a local coffee shop to turn away nursing mothers? Not in my book. But is it her right, under the law? It certainly should be. Just as it should be my right to then stage a protest and urge people to boycott the business.

The war on discrimination is nothing less than a war on free thought, free speech and free association. It's only a matter of time before someone like Philip Buble comes to town and asserts his rights, which will force others to do business with him against their will. He'll have the city's backing. Because in Boulder, we have no right to discriminate against anyone-even those who promote causal sex with dogs.

Wayne Laugesen can be reached at Wayne@Laugesen.com or 303-312-0921. Send letters to the editor to: Boulder Weekly Letters, 690 S. Lashley Lane, Boulder, CO 80303; e-mail to letters@boulderweekly.com; fax 303-494-2585.

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